Thoughts on the (U-20) World Cup Draw.

As a women’s soccer fan who favors the college level of the game, I look to the youth national teams for my international fix. I get bummed out when we skip the Nordic Cup, and I consider the U-20 level to be my World Cup. I think that makes the U-17 level my Olympics, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Yesterday was the group draw for the U-20 World Cup, taking place in Germany July 13-August 1. Here is what we can look forward to:

  • Group A: Germany (hosts), Costa Rica, Colombia and France
  • Group B: Brazil, Korea DPR, Sweden, New Zealand
  • Group C: England, Nigeria, Mexico, Japan
  • Group D: USA, Ghana, Switzerland, Korea Republic

My first impression was that Germany has pulled a UNC-type quadrant, with the host country sitting as the Tar Heels. But in 2008, Germany did not reign supreme in the U-17 or U-20 tournaments. They will have the advantage of playing at home, but is that really an advantage for a women’s youth tournament in a men’s World Cup year? Franz Beckenbauer, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-20 and U-17 Women’s World Cups, said that he expected Germany 2010 to be as “successful” as Chile 2008,  but I wonder what he means by “success.” I’d like to be proven wrong, but I highly doubt that Germany can muster that kind of enthusiasm. Acknowledged bias: since I follow the US team, I saw 2008 through the lens of the Chilean media, which seemed to have fallen in love with the US’ Alex Morgan. I know we won’t have a similar situation in Germany.

Media digression aside, my predictions for Group A are easy. Germany and France will advance, although Costa Rica might be able to make them work for that. I only vaguely remember how France’s U-17s did in 2008, but given their success at the U-20 level, I think they are a safe second.

Dropping down to Group D, I want to say the USA and Korea Republic will advance. Even if the US sends a team identical to the one at CONCACAF, I don’t think they can blow advancing past the group stages. Ellis would be crazy not to take Bianca Henninger, and with a solid GK and average team, the US can at least handle these first three. My Korea Republic selection is kind of a coin toss. They are coming out of the AFC while China and Australia didn’t. In fact, they advanced ahead of Korea DPR, which was the team to beat in 2008.

Groups B and C seem to be the most even matches, so far as I can tell. It’s debatable which gets to be the group of death. I default the title to Group B, given history, but I think C could be tight. I think the safe bets for Group B are Brazil and Korea DPR, but I wouldn’t write off Sweden or New Zealand. Sweden advanced just behind England in UEFA, and New Zealand is likely using a team that is very experienced at the youth level together, with some players having competed at the senior level as well. I know I’ll be rooting for an underdog upset here.

Group C is a very solid group, and I would expect to see some good, even games here. Japan and England are very good teams, but Mexico is no slouch this year and Ghana probably isn’t either. That said, I do feel as though Japan and England have the edge here. Both owned their qualifiers, and as I recall, Japan and England met in the U-17 quarterfinals and ended that game with PKs.


One Response to Thoughts on the (U-20) World Cup Draw.

  1. Pingback: Webcast update for the quarterfinals of the U-20 Women’s World Cup « The Cross-Conference Collector

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